Monday, December 21, 2009

Now available at the Maritme Museum

The book should now be available in the bookshop at the Stockholm Maritime Museum. I dropped off the ordered books there this week-end. I am not sure what their retail price will be, but I'd guess about SEK 120.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Special pocket book deal

You can now buy the pocket book directly via this website for a special price of 120 SEK plus 24 SEK for postage. Compared to you save at least 30 SEK. You can even order a signed copy if you want. To order, send an email with your address. You can pay either through Paypal (just use the donate-button to the right if you don't have an account), or to my bank account. If you choose the latter, please state so in your email and I will provide the details.

(Non-Swedish residents can use this option as well. Postage: Inside EU: 44 SEK, outside 55 SEK).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Will there be a sequel?

I have been asked if there will be a sequel to Gunboat Number 14. The answer is yes, probably. I have some ideas about some of the characters becoming involved in another adventure. So stay tuned...

Friday, November 13, 2009


Here are some pictures of gunboats in action. The first one depicts the Swedish retreat after the battle of Palva sund, the second one gunboats firing at Sandöström. Both battles figure in the novel. The pictures are scans from this book.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Now at

The book can now be ordered through as well.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More background: The Finnish War

Several Readers have expressed the wish to read some more about the Finnish War of 1808-1809, a part of the Napoleonic Wars that isn't very well known outside Scandinavia. I found a very good summary of the events on this website. There is a special section dedicated to the coastal fleets as well as the involvement of the Royal Navy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New alternative download site

The ebook is now available in yet more file formats on the Smashwords site. These are pdf, epub, Kindle, PalmDoc and several more. The downloads are still free, of course.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

First printed copies

I got the first printed copies yesterday and they really look good. For now they are available from Lulu directly, but soon they will appear on as well.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Background facts: The gunboats

If you are interested in the vessels used by the inshore fleet, and the gunboats like our dear Number 14, this site is a good resource. Unfortunately the author mistranslated the Swedish term "kanonslup" into "Gun Sloop" which isn't very accurate considering that in English, a sloop is a completely different kind of vessel (in the Royal Navy the term could be applied to all kinds of vessels up to the size of a corvette). Otherwise, the site does provide a good summary of the vessels and tactics of the inshore fleet (army fleet).

There are some models of Chapman type gunboats, for example in the maritime museum in Stockholm. The only good picture I have seen on the web, however, is of an early type, with the removable land artillery carriage.

The picture above, albeit not as good, shows the later type of gunboat, like the ones in my novel.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A short review...

If you liked Patrick O'Brian's naval war stories, but wished there was a little more sex sprinkled through them, Gunboat # 14 is the book for you.

George Bollenbacher, USA

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Audio book version

Upon request there is now an audio book version. It's a quick and dirty conversion via espeak, so the voice is a little Star-Trekish. On the other hand, the guy does pronounce Lieutenant the British way, which may counterbalance my American spelling a little...

Edit: I have taken away the file - the quality is just too bad.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's published

Well, it's all done. The book is now available at Lulu's for order as a paperback as well as a free download if you want to read it on your screen. It has been a long journey to write this book (I started in February this year), have it proof read and my English dissected. It feels good to finally have made port with this project.

To download or order the paperback, please use the links to the right. Oh, and please comment, if you like the book, or if you don't...

Below on this site are still some chapters available as a preview. But please bear in mind that these are not proof read, spell checked or updated in any way - they are the first, unedited version.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


The novel is practically finished and currently being proof read. In due course it will be available here for free download as well as a pocket book (at a cost). So please, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, you can read a few chapters here, look at the blog archive to the right. Mind, though, that the texts available here are the first, unedited versions, so if you want a spellchecked and consistent version, wait for the final PDF release.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


It's 1808 and Sweden is at war with Russia. The war is not going well. On land, the Swedish army is retreating continuously and all that stands between the Russians and the Swedish mainland are the gunboats of the inshore fleet. The sea war amongst the islands of the Finnish and Swedish archipelagos is a special kind of war, fought in open boats by badly equipped men without proper training. Fighting the weather as much as the Russians, Lieutenant Johan Kuhlin commands a small squadron of three gunboats on special duty. During the short and wet summer, he learns that an independent command isn't all glory and that spies can be more dangerous than Russian guns.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Author's final note

Don't read this first if you intend to read the novel - contains spoilers.

This tale is of course fiction in the sense that it's not a true story. However, it has been composed of fragments that more ore less did really happen. Most of these fragments come from a wonderful little book, published in Swedish with the title "Dessa evinnerligt förbannade sluparna" (Those eternally damned gunboats"). The book contains a collection of letters and diaries from actual people serving on those boats in 1808 and 1809. And the characters of lieutenant Kuhlin and his men are very much inspired by those men, and a certain woman.

This woman, Miss Anna, deserves a special comment. There was indeed a priest's daughter who was observed participating in certain sexual activities with members of the inshore fleet. And while there is no prove that she was involved in the intelligence business in any way, I chose to use her to not only spice up my novel, but also make a certain point about women not only being of second hand importance for the effort of the war. There were quite a few women involved in this particular war, some disguised as men, but some openly accompanying their spouses and working on supply ships. One of them is very rewardingly depicted in Björn Holm's"Affären vid Ratan", a novel about the last battle of this war, in 1809.

As for the action itself, it's mostly fiction. Some cornerstones of the plot, however, are true. HMS Tartar was in the Baltic at the time, and her captain's name was Baker. The final battle, where Gran's gunboat gets blown to pieces, took place at Palva sund on September 18th, 1808. The tactics of this battle are accurately described, but the Russians did in fact come from the south, not the northeast. This little geographic alteration was necessary in order to get poor Gran trapped between the fleets.

The political background is also quite accurate. It is always difficult to describe people's feelings during a completely different period of time, but historians do quite agree that the Finnish War was fought half-heartedly at best. On land, the Swedish army was conducting some sort of fighting retreat most of the time. Many people did not like the king, both in Finland and on the mainland. Especially in Finland, many thought they'd at least not be worse off with the czar.

On the water, the war did go a little better. The navy had the Russians blocked in with British help and the inshore fleet fought well. It had, however depended very heavily on the sea forts, especially the one at Svensksund which was treacherously given up early in the war, together with a squadron of the most modern gunboats. This did definitely have an enormous impact on how the remaining inshore fleet could act. Considering this, they did very well. And in 1809, at Ratan, the very gunboats saved the army from complete defeat. But that's another story.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chapter 19 - Resolve

The small sailing boat ghosted quietly up the Aura River, towards the city of Turku. It was a dark night for once, the moon only temporarily visible behind the low clouds that announced yet another rain front from the southwest. The air wasn't warm any more either, it being September. Still, at least the nights were longer now, making covert operations like this one easier.

Lieutenant Kuhlin wrinkled his nose. The boat was reeking of fish and the coat he wore did not smell much better. They had found the boat abandoned, near a fishing cottage on one of the smaller islands off Turku, while they had borrowed their coats from some of their own crew, men who were not at all happy to give up the only warm garment they possessed, even though it was temporary. Both Eric af Klint and Kuhlin had only changed their coats, keeping the rest of their uniforms on underneath. In case of being discovered, they would at least still be able to claim that they were officers and had to be treated accordingly. As for weapons, they had a pistol each, and a heavy seaman's knife. Fishermen did not carry swords, so those had to be left behind. In any case it wasn't likely they would have to do much fighting, deep inside enemy territory they would have no chance of winning anyway.

"Where do we start looking, Sir?" Eric af Klint looked warily around, not seeing very much in the dark.
"At the docks. We'll try to find some cheap inn, ask some questions...try to get some grip on the situation here".
"Oh well. It's not much of a plan is it, Sir?"
Lieutenant Kuhlin shrugged.

On both sides of the river the docks were littered with Russian gunboats, galleys and other kinds of small warships. There was not much activity around them at this time, though. Some fires were burning ashore and they could see the movements of some guards, but most men were probably asleep after a good meal and a reasonable amount of vodka.

"Do you thing we should try counting them?" Eric af Klint wondered.
"I don't think so, Eric. It's too dark really."
"It's a lot of ships."
Lieutenant Kuhlin grunted in reply. Sure, there was a lot of boats. The Russians had had the advantage of numbers all the time since the fall of the fort at Svenssund. And even though most shipyards on the mainland now were building gunboats as fast as they could, there would still not be enough by spring to even out the numbers completely. But then again, it wasn't at all sure that there would be anything left of Finland's archipelago to defend the following summer. The gunboats would then have to protect the Swedish side of the archipelago instead, the entrance to the very capital itself. Stockholm. Kuhlin thought about the beautiful city, built on several islands just where the Baltic Sea met the freshwater lake Mälaren. Where his wife lived, Charlotte. He wondered what she was doing now. Sleeping of course. Hopefully, he thought.

They went ashore on the northern riverbank, just a little outside of the city center. There were some inns here, but most seemed to be closed and those that were not seemed mostly be frequented by Russian sailors. The two officers moved carefully towards the first of the bridges connecting the two parts of the town. Halfway across they encountered a half-drunk man who was leaning over the edge. Fortunately he was Swedish and eager to volunteer information as for places where a visiting priest might stay.

"I thought it a good idea to go for Wetterstrand first", Kuhlin explained later. "If we are lucky, Miss Anna will be somewhere near him, and if not, he still might know where she is."
Eric af Klint agreed reluctantly. For his own part, he was not very interested in Wetterstrand's whereabouts, but he realized that they would have to find them both anyway, and it was probably easier to find him. As a priest, he would certainly move somewhat predictably, something that could scarcely be said about the woman.

"Nikolai, darling", Anna said softly, her mouth only inches away from his ear. "Have I not been exceptionally co-operative, do you think?"
The young Russian officer moved slightly against her body, his eyes closed.
"Never tried to escape, and have I not fulfilled you every wish?"
Nikolai sighed. She was right of course. She had been very complaisant indeed, satisfied him completely in every way. Of course, he knew why she did it, initially at least, and he had not cared to think about it. However, lately he had sensed some change in her attitude, an ever so slight change, but still a change. He knew that he probably was wrong, there was no reason why she suddenly should actually like him. He opened his eyes and saw her looking at him questioningly?
"I was wondering what you were thinking about. You had this you were concentrating so hard."
"I was trying to make sense of you, Anna".
She laughed. Nikolai tightened his arms around her and pulled her closer.
"Don't laugh at me. I really don't understand you any more". His mouth was on hers now, feeling her lips part willingly when he kissed her almost desperately. She was so responsive to every single one of his body's moves, it really felt like she wanted him as much as he wanted her. But could it really be true?

"Anna, what are we going to do?" He caressed her back, while her head rested on his chest.
"There are some things I can imagine." She sighed.
"Like what?"
"Like us taking a walk downtown in the autumn sun..."
"Oh, that would be nice". Nikolai saw the picture clearly in his head. Walking with her on his arm, like a real couple. Like lovers. His heartbeat increased with the thought."
"You do like the idea", sensing his excitement. "We could just do it?"
"I don't know. I am to guard you, remember?"
"I won't run away, Nikolai".
He really wanted to believe her.

By dawn, Kuhlin and af Klint had checked several boarding houses which looked promising enough. Most had Russian guards outside, one or two of them, almost asleep on watch. Vigilance was not very high over all in Turku, but that was not surprising considering the Russians having won most battles during this war and the nearest regular Swedish army hundreds of miles away to the north. Of course there was the threat of landings being planned, and Wetterstrand would have told the Russians everything he knew about them by now. Kuhlin wondered how many Russian troops were garrisoned here and around the town. In any case they were regular troops which the Swedish ones to be landed were not. They were also well trained and had been in battle before. He shuddered. The Swedish conscripts were no use against regular troops. His own crew had done well enough alright, back at the farm, but it had not been their first fight, and if sub-lieutenant Gran and his boats had not arrived in time, they had never withstood the Russians in hand-to-hand combat.

They stood in a doorway across the street from another inn, when the carriage arrived. Three Russian officers emerged and walked to the door. They were high ranking according to their uniforms and they looked like they were on their way to a meeting. One of them wore a naval uniform, while the other two were land soldiers, probably cavalry and infantry.
"Interesting", Kuhlin said. "We'll stay here for a while and see what's happening."

Anna had her breakfast in her room, as usual. It was brought up by one of the guards who glanced at her cleavage as he usually did, but said nothing and left the room quickly. Anna had been thinking of trying to seduce him, but sensed that Nikolai had made it clear to him that he would at least lose his head if he as much as talked to her. She smiled for herself. Nikolai was clearly learning the game. Not fast enough, though. Poor boy. She had taken a liking to him, admitted it freely now. She might actually have become far too emotional for this kind of game lately. It was of course Eric's fault. He had softened her considerably, almost to such a degree that she could not rule out the possibility of being in love. Which was a concept utterly strange to her. She had never wanted to be that dependent on a man. But then again, she had never felt so empty when she wasn't near him.

Nikolai was a completely different matter of course. She did not love him, but due to her softened state of mind, she had opened herself to admit that she liked him. And that made it yet easier to lead him into the direction she wanted, because he felt her affection and, being in love with her, he chose to feel loved back. On the other hand, she felt a little guilty because she knew that she finally had to disappoint him. And that was a new feeling for her as well. She had never cared very much about how the men she used felt afterwards.

Thus, she wasn't very surprised when he came back a few hours later, in order to take her for a walk. She had promised him yet again not to run away, sealed it with a kiss even. Then she had opened the parcel he had brought with him.
"Oh!" She exclaimed when she saw the dress. "Where did you find this?"
"Never mind. I can't have you walk with me in that torn dress of yours, can I?"
She threw her arms around him, kissing him again. "You are so sweet, Nikolai."
"So put it on then." He smiled, making no move as to leave the room or even turn around. Anna giggled, then took off her dress slowly.

Half an hour later they were walking towards the center of the town, indeed looking like a pair of lovers. It was a sunny day at last, albeit not as warm as only a week before. Anna savored the fresh autumn air, while Nikolai mostly was peering at her, at least when he wasn't smiling proudly at everyone they met.
"Where do you want to go, Anna?"
"I don't know, we can just walk for a while, can't we? I have not stretched my legs for so long."
"I think you have", he winked at her.
"You know what I mean." She laughed, punching an elbow into his ribs.
"By the way, do you know where Wetterstrand might stay?"
"Yes, I do. But I don't think we..."
"Oh, I don't want to go there, Nikolai."
He sighed. "He isn't at home anyway, you know. They are all at a meeting this morning. That's why I could take you out. They are all occupied, in that inn over there actually."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Chapter 10 - night action

Slowly Gunboat Number 14 moved through the night. Lieutenant Kuhlin had only given his men enough time to rest for a meal on a small island in the late afternoon. Then they had taken their places at the sweeps again. Exhausted though they were, they all understood the importance of making all possible haste towards Gran and his party. Although they did not know how much of a head start the Russians had, they were sure they would not sail at night. These waters were difficult enough to navigate in daylight. Now, fortunately it wasn't that dark, but with the skies overcast still after the rain, visibility wasn't exactly good.

Kuhlin stod next to the boatswain, Tapper, who was at the tiller himself. They were not moving very fast, so if they'd ran aground the boat probably would not be holed. Still, Tapper wanted no one else to be responsible. Kuhlin, on the other hand, could not be expected to helm the vessel himself, being an officer. It was the naval way it was done. Kuhlin had all the responsibility but was not allowed to do the work himself. He was only to command. On a bigger ship this was alright, but on a gunboat? Kuhlin sometimes wished he just could take the tiller and steer the thing himself. At least it would do away with the delay that involuntarily came with helm orders.
"Two degrees to starboard, Tapper", he said instead.
"Aye, aye, Sir". Tapper moved the tiller to the left, swinging the rudder the other way, thus turning the boat to starboard. This was only a minor course change, but if they had to turn more quicky, they would stop the men pulling on one side as well, or even have them back their sweeps, making the turn yet faster.

Kulin tried to make out the chart in the dim light. Essentially he was just trying to reverse the course they had come days before. Still there were lots of islands around and he needed the chart to find the channel. It was a little lighter now, with the moon showing between clouds once in a while.

On the island, Sub-lieutenant Gran prepared to make his move. He squeezed Eleonoras hand and kissed her lightly on the cheek.
"Please be careful", she whispered. Gran nodded and started to make his way through the woods towards the rocks. Trying to make as little sound as possible, he took his time. It was dark enough, although the moon was out frequently and sihouetted the rocks above him. That was good, he thought, he would see the Russians clearly while appraoaching them from the darkness. He clutched his cutlass, moving uppwards.
Soon he could see the Russian sentries. They did not look particularly viligant as they sat with their backs against a rock. Gran made his way around them and hid behind the very rock they were leaning against. From here he had a good view over the surrounding sea.

At first he saw nothing but glittering water in the moonlight. Down in the cove, the two Russian gunboats were partly beached, men around them, sleeping. Two sentries did look a little more alert. They were standing next to the boats, talking. Gran wondered if the Russian discipline really was this bad or if it just was another way of dealing with things, and there was a way to get those unorganized men up and fighting in a minute. Somehow he doubted it, but this was not the right time to find out.

He looked out over the sea again. There was something moving far in the distance. Surely it wasn't an island? No, it was moving. Gran could almost sea a glittering wake. It was clearly a boat. But was it Russian? Or one of Kuhlin's boats? If it was the latter, then the Russians could not be allowed to see it. But if it was Russian it was better to leave the sentries alone. Even if he could disable them silently they would be missed soon. And then the Russians would know they weren't alone on this island.

"Tapper, look there is the island". Lieutenant Kuhlin was relieved they had finally made it. It had been a hard pull and he was not sure if the men were fit enough for action still. He decided to let them have half an hours rest.
"Then we will prepare for action and move in on the cove."

Gran stared at the faint dot on the sea. There was no more glitterling wake now and nothing was moving. Maybe it hadn't been a boat after all. Or did it just stop? He was confused. In fact, he didn't have a clue what he should do now. Should he take out the Russian sentries? Could he even do it without them making enough noise to alert the others? He shifted his body closer to the edge of the rock in order to find out what the Russians were doing. One of them was now standing at the edge of the rock, looking towards the dot that was - or was not - a boat. Then he said something to the other Russian who rose and started to climb down to the beach.

Now it was too late. The sentry had clearly decided that the dot was a boat and sent his companion down to alert the troops. Gran cursed for himself.

Gunboat Number 14 was moving again. In the bows, gunnery officer af Klint was peering into the darkness towards the island. He could just se a faint glow over it, probably from a fire on the beach. He was sure the Russians were there. Probably lying drunk around that fire. He only hoped they did not catch Gran and his party. And the girl. Particularly not the girl. Having been in Russian captivity before, she really did not need this. He wondered how many boats the Russians had in that cove.

Down on the beach the Russians were now stirring. The officer, pipe in hand, shouted orders and the men were gathering, forming some sort of orderly group next to their boats.

Sub-lieutenant Gran had been climbing down and made his way back into the woods. He still wasn't sure if the boat was friend or foe, but he had to risk it. Surely the Russian officer did not expect it, otherwise he would not have started this commotion.
Once back in the woods Gran instructed his men. This was their chance to alert the gunboat off the island and at the same time spread confusion amongst the Russians.

The Russians were just about to climb onboard their vessels when Gran's swivels opened fire. Completely taken by surprise the shots did confuse more than hurt the Russians. Not knowing exactly who fired on them and from where, they stopped in mid-motion.

"Gunfire ashore", shouted af Klint, immediately feeling stupid as everybody else would have heard the shots as clearly as him.
"Firm up togheter", orderered Kuhlin. "Pull as fast as you can!"

In the woods, Gran's men reloaded as fast as they could in the dark. Soon the swivels were barking again. Now Russians were falling, while others tried to find cover down the water's edge. The officer was still standing, shouting orders. Some men had made it into one of the gunboats and were manning the sweeps, others were hauling at the kedge.

"Muskets, fire at the men in the boat", Gran ordered. But he simply did not have enough firepower. The boat was afloat now, pulling slowly out of range, while men were working at it's guns. Soon they would be under fire themselves. Some Russians were forming a line along the beach, bayonettes ready, muskets lowered. They fired blindly at the woods without doing any real damage. Advancing now.
"Hurry up or they'll get us", Gran hissed towards the swivel crew. In the last moment the gun fired, cutting down three Russians, causing the others to stop, then retreat towards the boats.

Then the Russian boat gun joined in. The first shot from the main gun was high, whizzling throught the trees, cutting down branches. The next one was short, the shot crashing into the pebbles, showering the men in the woods with small stones and dust.
"Move back, into the woods", ordered Gran, grabbing Eleonora's arm and dragging her unceremoniously with him. As soon as they had left their position the Russian gun belched again. A big hole emerged where they had been only seconds ago.

The Russian soldiers started to advance again. More confident of their own firepower now, they soon entered the woods, slowly advancing. Gran's party had to abandon the swivel guns in order to be able to move more swiftly. Now, they only could hope that the darkness would keep them hidden until help arrived.

Gunboat Number 14 was rounding the headland. Af Klint finally had a clear view into the cove.
"Guncrew, on the nearest gunboat, fire as you bear!". The boat was still swinging round. Slowly the Russian gunboat came into the sights of the gun. Then it fired. The shot was in line, but too short. It bounced off the water seveal yards in front of the Russian vessel and flew right over it, although creating some confusion on the beach.
Lieutenant Kuhlin was now essentially under af Klints command. In close battle the whole boat had to be moved to train the gun sideways, while the boat had to be kept on station otherwise in order not to throw off the gunner's aim. Kuhlin could see men on the Russian boat running towards the aft gun. Then their own gun fired again, followed by an unusual crash. Someone was screaming in the bows. Af Klint was swearing.
"What happened?"
"The sliding carriage broke! I did tell you I didn't like it didn't I". Af Klint was making his way back towards Kuhlin while others were dragging away one of the gunners, whos leg had been crushed by the gun.
"We've to turn around, use the aft gun! Starboard, back your sweeps, port give way togehter. Hard a starboard, Tapper".
"Load aft gun!" shouted af Klint.
Gunboat Number 14 was turning on the spot. Kulin looked at the Russian gunboat. Men were still working at the aft gun. Just when their boat was broadside on to it, the gun fired. The shot bounced overhead. Now the turn was complete. The aft gun fired almost immediately, its shot striking the Russian boat's bow with a crash. Splinters flew like dust around the gunboat. Then it began to settle by the bow, slowly sinking.
"Shift aim to the other boat", af Klint shouted.
"Belay that!", Kuhlin ordered. "Prepare to board her, boarders to the stern! Back your sweeps togheter!"

Sub-lieutenant Gran held Eleonora close to him. They were crouched behind some bushes deep inside the woods. Now he lifted her head and looked her into the eyes. "I think we made it, darling." The Russian troops had hastily retreated as soon as the big boat gun had announced Kuhlin's appearance in the cove. Being trapped between enemy lines they clearly had realized that their future was with the boats, not the party in the woods.
Eleonoras eyes were wet with tears, but now she smiled. "I like it when you call me darling", she whispered.

On the beach, the Russian soldiers were now advancing towards the water over exactly the same ground they only half an hour before had fought for in the opposite direction. Their aim was clearly the second gunboat which not was being boarded by Kuhlin's men. They made their way forward in order to man the sweeps and pull the boat off the beach. But they were soon under fire from the Russian muskets. Kuhlin ordered his own boat backed away a few yards in order to be able to use his swivels against the troops ashore.
"Fire swivels!"
The guns barked. Russian soldiers fell, but others were soon upon the men trying to get the boat afloat. Af Klint, who commanded the boarding party, swore. This wasn't going as well as it could. Although they had taken the Russians by surprise they still were greatly outnumbered. This mess was almost as bad as the incident with the priest's daughter, he thought. Rising his cutlass he swept away a Russian bayonett while shooting the soldier with his pistol at the same time. Then he saw the Russian officer cutting down one of his men with his sword. Af Klint slashed his way towards the man. If he only had one more pistol, he would not have to dance around here like in a fencing lesson. He raised his cutlass and stroke out, but the Russian parried. His sword was slightly heavier, not as good a weapon at sea, but on a beach, where there was more room to move, it was an advantage. Still, af Klint held his ground. He heared another swivel gun bark in the distance, then the Russian came at him again and forced him to back towards the boat's bows. This may not work so well, he thought. The he felt pain in his side and stumbled. He saw the Russian officer raise his sword again, but then there was a crash and everything went black.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chapter 3 - Out to sea

Early next morning three gunboats left the sheltered cove at Rindö and moved slowly north. It was a calm, misty spring morning which promised a sunny day. There would be no wind, though, at least not until the sea-breeze set in in the afternoon. So the men had a hard day's pulling ahead of them. At least the work would keep them warm in the chill of the morning.
Lieutenant Johan Kuhlin stood on his little afterdeck and looked astern. His boat was leading the squadron with the two others following close behind. As they cleared the headland and moved towards the narrow channel called Kodjupet - "Cow Deep" he saw the little schooner Amelia weigh anchor. Amelia was to be their supply vessel. She was loaded with food, brandy, powder and shot for at least a month. She had only a small crew and could not be rowed, which meant they would have to wait for her somewhere in the norther archipelago before they would venture out to sea together in order to cross to Åland and the Finnish archipelago. Where the Russians were waiting.

The other two gunboats, number 34 and 35 were quite new boats, with lugsails instead of his own boat's lateen rig. Otherwise they were of the same construction, armed with two 24 pounder guns and four swivels. They were commanded by sublieutenants who looked very young and unexperienced, thought Kuhlin. They had all met the evening before at the camp site that had been set up for the crew at the little cove on Rindö. Kuhlin did not, however have time to speak to them very much as he had been called away to the castle for dinner. Which had been an altogether boring affair. The commander of the fort had been drunk from the beginning and most of his men looked like they had not been working physically for a decade. In fact the fort had not really been needed since the Russian's failed attack in 1719. No enemy had since even come close to it. However this might very well change now. If Russia took Finland the archipelago might easily be in reach for their galleys again.

Kuhlin made himself stop thinking along that line. Finland was not lost yet. Sure, the Russians were advancing steadily and Sveaborg had surrendered, but the inshore fleet was just assembling and with a little luck they would be able to cut off the Russian's supplies and set ashore troops to halt them. He though about his orders again. He was lucky to have his own squadron, instead of just being one boat i a long line, mostly occupied with holding his station and not missing any orders or create a mess that could be taken advantage of by the enemy. Still, he wondered what he would have to do, if he was capable of it and if the commanders of his other boats would be of any use.
Suddenly he realized that they had passed through the channel and were in more open water for a while. He might as well put those subs though a little drill.
"Tapper, he called", signal the other boats to take station in line abreast. "Then let the men ease up to give them a chance to get in place".

The three boats performed formation drill for during the best part of an hour. They formed up inline abreast, stopped, advanced together, turned in formation, split up and formed again. With only three boats these maneuvers were not especially difficult, but the crews were new and the commanders of the other two boats were not very experienced yet. However, eventually Kuhlin was satisfied that they were able to do as he wished. Now only one thing remained to make this first co-ordinated drill complete. He ordered the boats to close up and called to their commanders.
"Gentlemen, we will advance together and attack that little island over there. We will fire live shots, main guns and swivels alike. Three rounds each. Let's see some action!".

In the bows of Number 14, the gunnery officer ordered his men to get the gun ready. In order to be fired it had to be hauled out of the bottom of the boat up on it's sliding carriage, secured, loaded and run out into the firing position. Af Kint was still unsure about the gun carriage. He watched the mean hauling on their tackles and the gun sliding up into position, ropes straining and wood creaking when the load shifted. When the gun was loaded and hauled into position he raised his hand to Kuhlin who ordered the attack to begin.

The island, not more than a skerry with a few trees on it was a little more than a cable lenght away when the boats stopped oars still in the water like giant water spiders. As the guns were fixed the whole boat was moved to train them left or right.
"Fire at will", Kuhlin ordered. Af Klint looked along the barrel one last time, the nodded to the gunner who lowered a glowing piece of slowmatch into the touchhole. The gun went off with a boom. Af Klint watched the cannonball bounce off the water about 300 yards away and then crash right into on of the trees on the island, taking down several branches. Shortly after the other boats shots joined in. Two minutes later the guns boomed out again.

"They are a trifle slow at reloading", remarked Kuhlin. "Two shots every three minutes is the least thing to expect. We have fewer boats than the Russians, so we must compensate it with a higher rate of fire".
Tapper nodded. "Yes, Sir, we will have to train more".
"Indeed. Now secure the guns and let's make way. We have still some more miles to go until the evening".

They stopped for the night in an anchorage north of Furusund. From here they would start the passage over open water to Åland. As soon as the weather permitted. They would have to wait for the Amelia though. Kuhlin wanted to do the crossing in company with the supply ship. It would enable them to get a good meal when they arrived instead of the simpler provisions the gunboats carried themselves. Also, if they went over together they could protect the unarmed Amelia in case there were any Russians cruising out there. There should not be any, though, with most of the Russian high seas fleet blockaded but one never knew if some corvette or brig had been able to slip out.

The passage across the Åland Sea is about 25 nautical miles of open water. At three knots it would take the gunboats a little more than eight hours - if they could follow the direct route. Of course, if the winds were favorable the boats could sail faster. If they turned foul, however, the passage could take much longer. The gunboats were not very good at going upwind and in open water they were not easily rowed either, if there was any swell at all. Fortunately the prevailing winds this time of the year were southwesterlies, at least until the sea breeze got up in the afternoon and turned them into southerlies or made them die completely on the Swedish coast. Until then, however, the boats would be well out to sea and on the other side the sea breeze would add to the prevailing winds, making them stronger instead. On warm summer days thus near gale force winds could easily appear in the afternoons without any apparent warning.

When Kuhlin gave the order to step the masts and set out to sea, the winds were still light between the islands. He had ordered two of the gunboats to tow the Amelia out of the protected waters in order to keep his little force together. As soon as they reached open waters, the tow was cast off, sails set and the squadron started to sail on an easterly course towards Åland. In fact the real course would rather have been east by northeast, but the gunboats made so much leeway that they would end up farther north anyway.

For the crew this was easy work. They relaxed on the thwarts or with their backs against the gunwales, blinking into the sun and soaking up the warmth of the late spring morning. Kuhlin stood aft, on his usual place besides the tiller and watched the rigging and the sea around them. It was empty, not even a fishing boat was to be seen. Perhaps the fishermen were all afraid of Russian patrols. Or they had all been drafted into the gunboats, he thought.

Two hours later, the wind had picked up some and the boats creamed along nicely. Amelia, who was a much better sailor still had her mainsail reefed to slow her down but Kuhlin was satisfied. If this wind held, they would arrive well before dinner.
"Sail ho! Right on the starboard bow!" A shout from the bows disturbed his thoughts.
"Tapper, get a man up the mainmast", Kuhlin ordered.
"It's a ship" a new voice shouted. "Looks like a man of war. One row of gunports, may be a frigate".

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chapter 2 - The crew

"Let go forward", ordered Kuhlin. "Haul in on the kedge". Slowly gunboat no 14 moved away from the quay, stern first. 56 men where seated on the thwarts, 28 to each side, two at each of the 14 sweeps that would propel the boat while under oars. Between them the two masts and lateen yards where lashed in place above the guns that had been hauled down into the bottom of the boat in order to serve as ballast when under sail. Kuhlin stood in the stern of the boat next to the boatswain who had the tiller as long as they were in confined space - or at least until he had trained someone else to act as coxswain. Two men where heaving on the stout line that was connected to the kedge anchor.
"Easy on that line", Kuhlin ordered when the boat was getting close to the anchor. He didn't want her to overshoot the kedge, risking making a mess of anchor line and sweeps while in sight of everyone ashore.
"Kedge is up and down", the boatswain reported. Tapper stood, supervising the handling of the anchor, while controlling the tiller with his right foot.
"Haul in the kedge. Ready by the sweeps", ordered Kuhlin.
Although most of the men never had been aboard a gunboat it had been explained to them by Tapper what was expected of them. Many also had some experience in rowing fishing skiffs or the like. About a dozen men had served on gunboats before, and Tapper had tried to place them as strategically as possible in order for them to be able to help the landsmen. Kuhlin looked around. The kedge was up and currently being stowed in its locker. Fortunately no other boats were around. They might as well give it a go, he thought. He raised his voice.
"Easy now, slowly and one thing at a time, men!" Then: "Out sweeps".
Slowly and carefully, like a cat that stretches its paw after a good nap, the long sweeps moved outwards.
"Down sweeps". The blades dropped into the water. "Give way together slowly!" This was the most difficult part. When rowing a vessel with many sweeps everything depended on the movement of the oars to be simultaneous. If one or several sweeps moved out of stroke they could collide with others and the whole symmetry would be destroyed, the boat would stop moving and in the worst of cases, sweeps could break. Thus every pair of oarsmen had to time their strokes with one specific sweep, normally the aftmost one on each side as the oarsmen sat with their backs to the bows of the gunboat. While they rowed they had to keep their eyes on those leading sweeps and all they had to do was keep the same beat.
Slowly the sweeps started to move and gunboat no 14 started to make way through the water.
"Hard a starboard", ordered Kuhlin. Tapper moved the tiller and the boat moved away from the shore.
"Midships. Keep her along the shore".
When underway inshore between the islands and skerries, compass courses normally were not used. It was much easier to order the coxswain to steer by sight.

This was going quite well, Kuhlin thought. Surely, the rows of sweeps did not look like anything that would impress an admiral, but they would certainly get better. Number 14 was now slowly moving along the coastline. When they passed the island of Beckholmen his nose was filled by the strong smell of tar. It was here most of the famous Stockholm tar was produced. Or had been, as the tar came mostly from Finland and with that part of the country now threatened by Russia the supplies had started to dwindle. The boat now turned to larboard, into more open water. Time to try the men some more.
"Oarsmen firm up", called Kuhlin. The sweeps started to move faster as the men leaned into them with a will. At least they had gotten a decent breakfast. A gunboat was not a fast vessel. Under oars their speed was between two and three knots. Still that was much faster than the old galleys which were happy if the could make one knot at all. Of course the gunboats could be rowed faster, but only for short periods of time. Kuhlin hoped they would be able to sail later, when they got into more open water. Under sails they would both be faster and more easy on the crew. On the other hand, pulling kept them warm and occupied so they did not have time to worry about what lay ahead of them. Kuhlin sat down on the starboard locker, pulled out his notebook and started to write his log.

In the bows, gunnery officer Eric af Klint stood and smelled the fresh air. The boat was moving at about three knots, still under oars and they were now halfway between Stockholm and Vaxholm castle, their destination for the day. Af Klint was still not satisfied with the bow guns sliding carriage. It had been freshly greased and the gun moved nicely enough when it was stowed in the bottom of the boat before they cast off. But something was not really right with that gun. Still, he could not find out what it was.
He hear some shouting and moving behind him and turned. The crew had stopped pulling and was about to stow the oars. Boatswain Tapper and two other men where fiddling with ropes and sails. Apparently, the commander had decided to try out the sails.
The gunboat was not a very good sailer, due to its shallow draft and lack of proper keel. However with the guns below it was stable enough to carry a considerable amount of sail on the two masts that were about to be raised by the crew. The rig was designed to be taken down or raised by the crew alone, at sea. As number 14 carried a lateen rig, the masts were quite short, in fact the main yard was longer that the main mast was high. This made rigging quite easy.

Kuhlin stood besides the tiller and watched the masts which now had been raised and steadied by shrouds and, as far as the foremast was concerned, by a forestay.
"Yards ready to hoist", the boatswain announced.
"Hoist main yard! Let fall mainsail."
The big yard slowly rose up the mast and was secured. Then the big sail unfolded and caught the breeze.
"Haul tight sheets and braces", Kuhlin ordered. The sail steadied and the gunboat started to move. Soon even the smaller foresail was set and the boat moved along nicely in the southwesterly breeze.
"That worked quite well, boatswain", Kuhlin remarked.
"Thank you, sir. She is moving along nicely now".
"She is indeed. Let the men have something to eat and drink, we still have a few hours to go, and I am sure they will have to pull again as soon as we are near the castle. The winds always are very fluky in that anchorage."
"Aye aye, sir". Tapper moved forward and ordered two of the sailors to follow him. Gunboats did not carry a proper galley, which meant there could be no hot drinks or meals at sea. Provisions were carried for two weeks to be cooked ashore, or else there were special supply boats attached to every three or four gunboats. As number 14 still was on the way to her squadron only cold food could be served: salt herring, hard bread and brandy. The men, however gulped it down with a will. Pulling was hard labour and could make a man eat almost everything. Now they rested, with full bellies while the boat was under sail. Some of the men took out tobacco pouches and simple pipes, carved of wood. Other just sat and talked. Some of the conscripts knew each other, although people from the same village were divided between different boats in order to make it less hard on the communities if one of the boats should be sunk.

Gunboat number 14 neared the narrow channel which formed the entrance to the big lagoon-like anchorage off Vaxholm. The lagoon looked like an hourglass with the big castle on its own island in the middle of the waist, protecting the anchored fleet from any attack. Now there were not many ships at anchor. Most of the high seas fleet were away blockading the Russians in Estonia. There were, however a few smaller ships there, mostly unarmed transports, or, as Kuhlin hoped, supports for the gunboats. Hopefully his supply boat would be amongst them.
The wind increased and shifted dead astern as soon as they were in the channel. The gunboat sailed very well, thought Kuhlin, at least with a following wind. However, as soon as they were though the channel the wind would drop to almost nothing and they would have to take out the oars again.
"Tapper", he called "have the masts taken down as soon as we are through. I don't want to have to fiddle with the rigging while trying to find out squadron."

Half an hour later, number 14 was moving slowly under oars towards the castle. Kuhlin searched the castle walls for any sign of an officer who could tell him where his squadron was. He did not have to wait long. As soon as they were in shouting distance an midshipman appeared and shouted his instructions.
"Lieutenant Kuhlin of number 14? Your squadron is just around the headland there, in Rindösund! I'll send a boat for you later, the castle commander invites you to dinner!"
"Thank you, I am very much obliged", replied Kuhlin. "Tapper, you heard him, Rindösund it is".

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chapter 1 - Taking command

Lieutenant Johan Kuhlin was half an hour late when he arrived at the quay below the heights of Södermalm. And now he needed a boat that could take him to the navy yard on Djurgården Island. The problem only was that the quay showed a complete absence of the small ferry boats that normally plied the busy waters of the harbor. Something was keeping them busy somewhere else, he thought. Maybe one of the bigger merchantmen was about to leave. Suddenly he saw a small rowboat approaching the quay. An old woman was handling the only pair of oars and as he shouted to her she turned around and waved in acknowledegement.
Kuhlin took up the canvas bag with the few belongings he had decided to be needing on his voyage and stepped into the dangerously rocking boat. As there was no real cabin on a gunboat, only some big lockers along the gunwales the most aft ones big enough for a man to lie down in and sleep, quite like in a coffin. Three of those were reserved for the commanding officer, the gunnery officer and the boatswain, while the rest of the crew slept on the thwarts or wherever they could find space. Originally the gunboats were intended to be moored somewhere during the nights and the crew would then sleep in big canvas tents. This was of course not always possible during wartime use of the boats. Even if long overnight passages were relatively uncommon, they had often to be in a state of alert with crew at their stations. If it was quiet enough the boat could be covered by the sails to protect the crew from rain and cold.

Kuhlin sat down in the stern of the boat. "To the galley wharf if you please", he told the woman.
"You on one of those gun shallops? Bloody uncomfortable things I hear. Dangerous as well, not worth much in a gale are they?, the woman conversed gruffily. "Son of a neighbor of mine was on one of those over at Svensksund. Not heard from him since the..."
"Yes, yes. Hurry up will you?" Kuhlin wasn't in a mood for talking. He was well enough aware of the disadvantages of a gunboat in a gale. He thought about his canvas bag. He had taken only one extra uniform to be kept clean and used for special occasions. A blanket, his tobacco pouch, a bottle of brandy and the little book his wife had given him. Some poems or something. And his diary of course, which probably would double as a log, or were the gunboats provided with real log books, like real ships? Well he would find out shortly.

The woman had stopped talking and rowed quietly and slowly between the moored ships in the harbour. They were now passing the fort on Kastellholmen with it's bare flag pole, indicating that the country was at war. Sailors were exercising on the quay below the fort. Not real sailors, new conscripts without even proper uniforms. They looked more like peasants, which was probably exactly what they were. His own crew would also be made up of these unfortunate souls. Well, it was his duty to weld them into a working crew. If he failed, none of them would stand a chance to get home alive.

The galley wharf had gotten it's name from the galleys that originally were built there. Bigger than the gunboats but not as heavily armed they looked very much like the old galleys from the Mediterranean. There were still some in service in the inshore squadron, but now they were mostly uses as command posts or support vessels for the much more effective gunboats. Right now only one galley was in sight, moored to the wharf and with her masts taken out she was probably about to be fitted out. The rest of the shoreline was occupied by gunboats in different states of completeness. Some were newly built and still unpainted and without guns. Some were of the older type with the gun mounted aft on a field carriage in order to be able to be put ashore easily used as a land battery. This was the type of gunboat that their designer Fredrik Henrik af Chapman had used in 1776 to convince King Gustav III to have them mass produced. Most modern boats had the gun in the bows, some even had two big guns, one forward and one aft. 24 pounders mostly, except the older field guns who were only 12 pounders.

Even the rigging was different. All boats had two masts that could be stepped or taken down without the boat having to be moored or anchored. In fact, the crew had to be trained to take down the masts very quickly as the boats were not designed to use their big guns while under sail. Instead the guns were hauled down into the bottom of the boat to act as ballast and improve it's ability to sail to windward. Which was bad enough to begin with. As for sails the boats had either lug sails or lateen sails. Kuhlin preferred the lateen rigged boats. They looked better and would at least theoretically stand a chance to be able to go to windward.

Kuhlin paid the ferrywoman and stepped ashore. The shoreline was bustling with workers and sailors, most of the latter being in the same sorry state as those he had seen at Kastellholmen. Looking around he found a young man in a sub-lieutenant's uniform and hailed him. "Any idea of how to find number 14?"
"Not sure, Sir, but if she's supposed to be ready for sea she'll be over there." Pointing to the far side of the wharf.
"Thank you kindly", Kuhlin replied and moved on. He soon came to a part of the wharf where boats were moored bows-to the quay. Dockyard workers where busy loading them with supplies of all kinds. The quay was littered with crates, barrels and boxes. Heaps of sweeps, spars and rigging completed the picture. Suddenly Kuhlin saw his boat. She was empty except two men who were working on the aft gun. One of them wore the uniform of an artillery officer and the other one wore a sailor's rig. That would be the boatswain, Carl Tapper, and the officer would be Eric af Klint, the gunnery officer. Kuhlin looked down on the men who would be the perhaps most important part of his crew. Tapper was small and sturdy but looked like a competent sailor. Af Klint, on the other hand, was an aristocratic looking thin figure with a nose that looked like a bird's beak.

Suddenly the boatwain looked up and saw Kuhlin standing there. "Can I help you, Sir?" he asked.
"I think you can," Kuhlin replied. "I am supposed to take command of number 14".
"Oh, lieutenant Kuhlin, Sir. Welcome aboard", Tapper came to attention and saluted.
"At ease, boatswain", Kuhlin stepped down into the boat and held out his hand. Tapper shook it, then turned to the gunnery officer who had stood silent. "That's our artillery man, af Klint".
"Welcome, Sir", said af Klint.
"Thank you both. Now when do we expect to get any crew?"
"I have no idea", Tapper replied. "But there is a letter for you, Sir. I put it in your chest aft."
Kuhlin thanked him and started to make his way aft. His chest, or built in locker was the aftmost one on the starboard side. He opened it and found the letter on top of some blankets. Sitting down on the aft gun mounting he opened it. The letter contained, as he had expected, his orders. He was to take his boat to Vaxholm castle in order to meet with two more gunboats, numbers 34 and 35 as well as a supply boat. Taking command of this little squadron he was to proceed over the sea of Åland to the Finnish archipelago and the main base there. Further orders would be issued after his arrival. Very well, thought Kuhlin. If he only had a crew. He looked up at the sky. It was overcast but would not rain for a while. There was not much wind, but he was sure there would be once they got out into more open water.
"Boatswain!" he called. Tapper came aft and saluted. "Yes, Sir?"
"Try to send some messenger to Kastellholmen to find out if our crew is there. I saw some fairly new conscripts there on my way here..."
"Aye" Tapper replied and turned.
"And Tapper! What's wrong with the gun forward?"
Tapper hesitated. "I'm not really sure, better ask the gunner!"

Carl af Klint croached over the gun mount and poked at it with some kind of a knife. Kuhlin could not see anything that looked amiss with the piece, but he was no gunner, af Klint was.
"What's wrong with it?"
Af Klint stopped poking. "It's dirty like hell, won't slide down as easily as it could, Sir", he replied. "Also the gun tackles do look like they have been there since the last war. I would like to have them replaced."
"Then why don't you?"
"They won't let me have any cordage, Sir. Claim there is a shortage and everything they have is reserved for masts and rigging".
"Oh, I see". Kuhlin hadn't it expected to be that bad. But with all the Finnish squadron gone and news boats under construction on literally every boatyard in the country it probably was right to hold back on the stuff.
"But will it shoot?" he asked.
"It will shoot alright and maybe a few rounds fired will burn away the dirt and let it slide more easily. But I still would want to change the tackles, Sir".
"I'll see what I can do. Meanwhile let's hope we'll get our crew soon. We are off to Vaxholm as soon as they are here."

The crew however, did not arrive until early next morning. The boatswain's messenger had not returned until late that evening, and drunk as well. Apparently the conscripts had tried to delay their departure in order to wait for the uniforms they had been promised. Now they would have to go to war in their own clothes. Kuhlin was just as angry about that as they were themselves, but he could not do a thing about it. The uniforms, so he was told, were ordered but hadn't been delivered in time. And yes, they would be sent after them to Finland one way or another. Kuhlin wasn't so sure about that, but he had told his crew nothing about his doubts. They were a sorry enough lot as it were, having been marched from the inland villages around the capital for days and weeks, without being properly fed just in order to start rowing the gunboat without even any proper training. But they would learn on the way. Fortunately, between Stockholm and the Åland Sea lay one of the biggest archipelagos in the world. Thousands of islands and skerries sheltered it from the swell and winds of the Baltic Sea and made it into an easy enough training ground for the new oarsmen. Or so Kuhlin hoped.


May 1808

Lieutenant Johan Kuhlin stood at the window and looked down on the big inner harbour of Stockholm. It was crowded with ships and boats of all kinds. Most were smaller merchant vessels waiting to bring supplies to the army who fought for its survival more than defending the Eastern part of the Swedish kingdom - Finland. Only a few weeks before, the big fortress at Svensksund had surrendered to the Russians and the whole Finnish gunboat squadron with it. Now only the little Stockholm squadron stood between the Russian inshore fleet and the Åland islands, let alone the Stockholm archipelago and Swedish capital. Sure, the high seas fleet had managed to blockade the bigger Russian ships in Estonia, with some help from the British Royal Navy. But there were enough galleys, sloops and gunboats left to worry about. Especially now with the Finnish squadron added to the enemy's forces. And those were the best and newest boats.

Kuhlin thought about the commander of that fortress - the traitor as he already had been named by quite a few - Carl Olof Cronstedt. Kuhlin had met him once, long nose and quite small mouth. Aristocratic of course. But a coward nonetheless apparently. If he at least had burned the gunboats before surrendering to the Russians. More than 70 galleys and gunboats had fallen into Russian hands which was more than the Stockholm squadron could muster altogether. And that did not even include the original Russian boats.

He turned his head and looked to the right. In the distance he could just see the navy yard where gunboats were built and repaired at this very moment. But the boats were not all. The inshore fleet was formally an army unit. It's primary purpose was to support the army by covering its seaward flank. Thus while the boats were commanded by navy officers like himself the rest of the crew was army. An army officer commanded the guns and the men at the oars were all new army conscripts with very limited seagoing experience. He did have a boatswain, though, who was a real sailor and would no doubt be extremely useful.

Talking about guns, Kuhlin thought. His boat would have two real guns, a 24 pounder in the bow and one in the stern. Then there were four small swivel guns, two in the bows and two aft. Kuhlin actually never had commanded a gunboat before, or any vessel by any means. He had been a second in command on a navy brig at most. The transfer to the inshore fleet really was Charlotte's fault. She wanted him to be near her home at Stockholm and not to be away for so long periods as was customary in the navy. Of course he had wanted it too, newlywed and all in love. But then the war had come and now he wasn't so sure anymore. Maybe blockade duty off Estonia was better than fighting the Russians in what was essentially a big rowboat. There were two masts with lateen sails alright, but the rig was intended to be taken down during battle. And there wasn't even a cabin to sleep in!

Kuhlin heard a faint sound behind him and turned around. Charlotte, his wife was still in bed, awake now however and looking at him. At least the boat was his own command, he thought before moving towards the bed and sitting down on the edge beside his wife.
"Good morning, darling", he said and kissed her softly.
"Won't you come back to bed?", she asked, lifting the sheet to invite him in. Of course this exposed her naked body. Kuhlin tried to resist, although he couldn't avoid looking at her shapely breasts, nipples perkily stiffening in the chilly morning air.
"I don't have time, really", he tried. But Charlotte took his hand and placed it firmly over her left breast.